Local News

Couple Loses 2 Grandsons in 2 Years

Posted July 8, 2007
Updated July 9, 2007

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— For the second time in two years, a Johnston County couple has tragically lost a grandson.

On Saturday, their 6-year-old grandson drowned. In 2006, another grandson was the subject of a high-profile murder case.

James Barbour Jr., 6, was in his grandparents’ backyard pool Saturday when he died. He, his parents and his siblings recently moved from Illinois and were staying with Ronald and Debbie Ford.

The Ford’s in-ground pool hadn’t been used in a year because it was leaking, family members said. The fence around the pool was always locked, they said. But somehow, James and his 2-year-old sister, Alona, got into the half-filled pool.

Their mother, Tammy Barbour, noticed they were missing and saw the pool gate was open.

She screamed for help, family members said, and Ronald Ford saw James' body at the bottom of the pool. He jumped in, got Alona and James out and gave James CPR. Paramedics took the boy to the hospital, but he was not breathing. They could not revive him.

When Kristal Kelly, James’ great aunt, got the call, all she could think was “not again, not again,” she said.

Kelly said she thought of her other great nephew, Sean Paddock. He died in February 2006, but not the way James did.

“This was an accident. Sean was no accident,” she said.

Investigators said Sean's adoptive mother, Lynn, wrapped him so tightly in blankets that he suffocated. She goes on trial for his murder next month. Sean's biological grandparents, who are also James' grandparents, said they'll be there.

They fought for custody of Sean's two siblings, Hannah and David, but the courts did not grant them custody.

For now, Kelly said the family is trying to get through the loss of another relative.

“It makes you realize what’s important – that we’ve lost a lot of family,” she said.

Investigators said they believe James’ drowning was accidental, but it remains under investigation. An autopsy was scheduled to be conducted at the State Medical Examiner's office in Chapel Hill.